Red Flat Nickel Corp. has proposed exploratory drilling at two sites in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Both are in Curry County.
The Cleopatra Site is about 12 miles west of O'Brien near the southeastern tip of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area. The proposed mining area is west of Taylor Creek, which flows into Baldface Creek.
The second proposed site is within the Red Flat area in the Hunter Creek drainage.
Red Flat Nickel is based in Portland and mostly owned by a United Kingdom company. Attorney John Magliana told the Mail Tribune (http://is.gd/augF2F) the exploration is an exciting project but it's not certain how far it will go.
"As anyone knows who has done business in the U.S., especially in mining, there are many hurdles to overcome before you can even think about drilling," he said.
"We are working our way through the formal processes right now," he said. "My client is very sensitive to the environment and the attitude of Oregonians."
Forest officials are studying the proposal and will conduct an environmental review paid for by the company.
"They do have a plan of operations for test drilling," spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said. "They are trying to make sure it's a viable deposit before moving a lot of equipment in."
Test drilling on the Hunter Creek site would use existing roads. The Cleopatra site would require access by helicopters, she said.
The Oregon Department of Water Resources in February issued a limited water use license to the firm for the Cleopatra area.
The firm has 139 claims in the proposed Cleopatra mining area.
The Cleopatra site is within an area proposed for an extension of wilderness, a largely roadless block known as the South Kalmiopsis.
Members of the group Friends of the Kalmiopsis said mining operation would undercut efforts to add the South Kalmiopsis roadless area, which encompasses the Baldface Creek drainage, to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.
"This is a valuable watershed for the north fork of the Smith River and Baldface Creek," said Barbara Ullian of Grants Pass, coordinator for the Friends of the Kalmiopsis. "This is some of the best quality fishery habitat we have in Oregon.
Mining could threaten a salmon and steelhead fishery and rare native plants, she said.
"This is right on the California border," she said. "Just across the border is the Smith River Recreation Area. That whole watershed was withdrawn from mineral entry.
The Bush administration in July 2004 supported adding South Kalmiopsis to existing wilderness, she said.
"These lands have been noted for their outstanding wilderness characteristics for many years, and there has been long-standing public interest in providing greater protections in this area," said Ann Veneman, who was Agriculture Secretary at the time.
The effort failed in Congress, Ullian said, but it's not just environmental activists who want additional protections.
"This is a very unique area that needs to be protected," she said. "Its fishery and botanical values are extremely high ... They are much more valuable than the minerals."
Information from: Mail Tribune